A hailstorm hit the apple orchards early in the growing season. In this drought-stricken part of the country, desperate for water, hail is a sort of a big “eff you” from God: water in its most destructive form, just enough to ruin the crops without delivering enough moisture to do any good.
Hail can destroy an entire harvest in a matter of minutes, pulping fruit and killing plants. Even if the storm doesn’t do a lot of apparent damage, the pockmarks and scabs that it leaves on the fruit can make it unsellable.
The bumps and scabs on these apples are the scars of that storm. They’re fine to eat, better than fine: they’re sweet, crisp, delicious. The damage is purely cosmetic, but that’s enough. Supermarkets won’t buy them. Even at the farmers’ market, natural habitat of the “Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees” crowd, most shoppers passed them over in favor of their prettier counterparts.
Eventually, they were relegated to the “cosmetically challenged” bin; a discounted hodgepodge of bruised and pockmarked apples, persimmons, and the occasional quince.
I like to buy cosmetically challenged produce, discounted or not. Part of it is the photographer in me: I see beauty in the lumpy, the twisted, the wrinkled, the strange. They’re more interesting than the supermarket poster fruits and vegetables.
More importantly, we can no longer afford to let food go to waste because its appearance doesn’t meet strict commercial standards. To put so much of our limited resources into growing food, then have it rot in the fields or landfills because we won’t buy it. If it tastes good, if it’s healthy, we shouldn’t reject it just because it looks funny. This goes for minor bug damage, too: if we tell farmers we’d rather have spotty apples than pesticides and fungicides and so forth, we need to follow up by actually buying those spotty apples.
Most importantly, a discounted bin of perfectly ripe fruit gives me an excuse to make pie.